|Students at the|
American College of the Building Arts
Color and Texture
|Clay plaster with osyter shells|
Marmorino, meaning "little marble", is an Italian tradition of integral colored lime putty plastering inherited from the ancient Romans. Enjoying a 20th century Rensaissance in the Veneto it soon was popularized once again in Italy and now throughout the world.
The French have there own long standing tradition of adding colors and aggregates to plaster. The French plaster is based on gypsum which is naturally more matte than lime. So, instead of marble the French tradition emulates limestone, called Stuc Pierre, meaning "Stone Stucco". The surface of Stuc Piere is typically shaved with a "Berthelet", a hand held plaster razor, and often scored to create joints in imitation of ashlar masonry. Virtually every culture has developed its own artistic flare using color and texture with plaster: Shikkui in Japan, Tadelakt in Morocco, Enjarre in Mexico to name a few additional examples.
|Moroccan "gebs" or Gypseries|
There are two principal approaches to creating ornamentation in plaster. The first is reductive. Morocco has cultivated master artisans of "gebs", otherwise known as Gypserie, a wonderful tradition of carving into gypsum plaster that is very akin to wood carving, using similar chisels and gouges.
A more widespread reductive method applied to a variety of different plasters around the world is Sgraffito, carving plaster in very low relief. Sgraffito relies on contrast of color between plaster layers for the effect and is a relatively inexpensive way to add a lot of visual punch.
Of course there are the additive forms of ornamentation for which plaster is famous. The finest ornamented stucco is done by hand, in situ. Lime is the preferred medium although sometimes a quantity of gypsum is added to speed up the work and create higher relief. The most awe inspiring work left by the ancient Romans and emulated in the Renaissance was all painstakingly carried out by hand by armies of sculptors. These must have been very exciting times to be a plasterer! As mold making technologies increased in the 18th century, in situ ornamentation became largely displaced by pre-cast ornamentation in gypsum plaster. Gypsum has a rapid set, just a few minutes, so once time has been invested in a master model, many copies can be made quickly.
|Enrico Trolese, contemporary Venetian Stuccotoro|
Scagliola and Buon Fresco
What is important to recall about all of these various decorative plastering traditions is that many of them can and are used in combination. Scagliola might be pressed into moulds to make ornamental pieces that resemble carved marble. Marmorino or a similar fine lime putty plaster is the grounds for painting Buon Fresco.
The art of plastering really has not changed much in thousands of years. We use the same commonly available materials and techniques we always have. And although to become truly expert at the various arts of decorative plaster requires patience and practice, the truth is they are quite humanistic endeavors, appreciable and accessible to most everyone.
Contributed by Patrick Webb